One of the best things about instant photography is the way the film lends itself to being manipulated by hand. These techniques can be challenging, but they also a great part of the charm of this type of photography. That is one of the things that allows us to make truly one-of-a-kind pieces of art.
So, today, I will show you an example of "before" and "after." Let's start with after. I happen to find it more interesting, but you can judge for yourself.
This photo collage was made by placing washed, positive, color transparencies over the top of black and white base photos, one that was just a photo of lace, the other, hand-written text. The pansies had been pressed, and when dried, attached to the photos to playfully echo the little pots of pansies in the foreground of each photo. I like the softness of the colors and the dreamy mood given by the transparencies.
Next, the originals...
And while I love the golden tones of these photos, the others images send my imagination on a voyage in a way that is completely different. I like how the flowers and the body flow into one another, as if the legs had become the stem, or the flowers had become the torso and the face. It further reinforces the metaphor of femininity as a flower, playing on juxtapositions of strength and fragility, on the ephemeral nature of the life of all things.
These photos are stripped down to their bare essence and rebuilt, thanks to the magic of scotch crystal tape. Reconstructing photos with transparencies, playing with different compositions, layering them over different photos, depending on how I am feeling that given day, all of this hands-on work is one of my favorite parts of instant photography. I love seeing the white stuff that separates the positive and negative halves of the photo come off with a wipe from the sponge. I like the smooth feel of the transparencies after they have dried. And I love the process of arranging and changing things around, of rebuilding photos again and again as new possibilities emerge. And in this case. the possibilities truly are endless.
Until next time...
She calls to me in the depths of my slumber, enticing me to rise before the sun, to meet her at the water's edge, to play in the warm shallows as the day begins, to dry myself as the summer heat begins to rise. Butterflies dance, alighting on the wild forget-me-nots blooming on the bank.
She calls to me when the rains fall, asking me to meet her beneath the ancient white oak. She weaves a wreath of vine and flower into my soaking hair. We run through the forest hand in hand.
She calls me to the edge of the bluff, the valley spread out below us and encourages me to step off. She has given me wings to soar, and instincts to guide me on my way back home.
She calls to me when I work in my garden, digging in the soil, black dirt beneath my fingernails, smudges across my face. My feet grow roots and they mingle with those of the rose and peony, holding the soil in place, keeping me grounded.
My wild nature is sacred. When she speaks, I promise to answer her call.
Until next time...
I tucked those moments into the scrapbook of my mind, preserving them for safe-keeping. They were pressed carefully between the pages, which is what I had done with the single, pink rose you had given me the first time we met. A single rose is perhaps one of the most elegant gifts one can receive. There is abundance contained in the mysterious folds of her petals, in the tiny secrets she holds close, in the delicate sweetness of her scent, more poignant than dozens of blooms.
And so the memories were preserved. Those carefree spring days in Paris, the picnic on the Quai François Mitterrand, the hidden courtyard parks in the Marais, the Pont Bir Hakeim, the Galérie Vivienne, the steps and passages in Montmartre, where all paths lead to Sacré Cœur... In our first two weeks together, hand-in-hand we traversed the city.
You wanted to share it all with me., all the splendor of your beloved home. We slept so deeply each night, exhausted by days filled with walking and fresh air, nights filled with moments of unleashed desire.
Paris will never exist in my mind without you. I learned to see her through your eyes, to taste her through your kisses, to caress her with your hands...
The April theme for the 12.12 Project was Nostalgia. The first photo of this post was my submission for that theme.
Until next time...
Our lives are made up of a thousand passages across the seas of birth and death, playing out again and again, in endless motion, like the movement of the hands of the clock, like the comings and goings of the seasons. Each winter gives way to a new spring, each ending, a new beginning. And so it goes.
There is poetry in the progression, magic in the emergence and calm in the senescence.
Last fall I gathered some fresh crabapples, bitter, nearly inedible fruit, to use in some photos. Their colors speaking to me of the brighter days of autumn. I stuck them in a paper sac, along with other treasures gleaned from walks along the banks of the Seine near my home. And there the sat, during the long, grey, Parisian winter.
Spring came, as it always does, and with its return, the crabapples blossomed once again, pale pink blossoms, luscious crimson buds. Wanting to capture and safeguard some of their essence, I snipped a few branches and brought them home to photograph.
It was then that I remembered the fruits I had collected last fall. The paper sac was still on top of my armoire, thankfully undisturbed by our curious, height-seeking kitten. She had left my sac of treasures alone. I pulled the crabapples out and they were completely shriveled on the stems, but, to my pleasant surprise, well-preserved. And as you can see, a photo series was born.
In this season of growth and promise and abundance, I am reminded of the fact that the wheels are forever in motion. This prompts me to slow down and savor. And photography gives me a vehicle for preserving the character of the moment.
Until next time,
The theme for the 12.12 project for the month of March was (To) Breathe. I submitted a portion of this collage, the top two sections. Why not the whole thing, you may be wondering. Good question. Because it is too large to scan in one piece, and it was not until later that I realized I could actually scan the collage in a series of triptychs and merge them using Lightroom, which is what I did here. It took me a couple of days to figure out that solution, however. And so I am sharing the result here. :)
In thinking about the theme, I wrote down words that I associated with it: air, sky, blue, light, space, flight, feathers, meditation, peace, nature. And this collage was born from wanting to capture something that embodied all of those elements, that embodied the feeling of lightness and freedom.
Writing for me, especially writing in a journal or creating poetry, provides me with breathing space. I inhale and gather up the words that are swimming around in the seas of my mind. I exhale, and they flow down my arms and out through the tips of my fingers, spilling like raindrops upon the page.
And here you see a repetition of the elements listed above, with a nod to writing and to the written word. Each photo has a lot of negative space in it, giving an overall sense of serenity to the piece. The center photo is an emulsion transfer onto 140# paper, made with 600 color film from the Impossible Project. The color layer separated from the emulsion layer as I was in the process of transferring it, resulting in something that is whisper soft, barely even there, almost as invisible as the breath.
Participating in the 12.12 Project has changed my approach to making photos. I am seeing things differently and learning how to put them together in new ways. Inspiration creeps into my dreams, and I awaken with my head buzzing with ideas. The theme for this coming month has me very excited too. But you'll have to wait until the end of the month to find out exactly why. So, stay tuned for more.
And, in case you haven't noticed, my website has a whole new look and layout. You may want to check out the photo galleries, which are organized by the types of cameras I used to make them, with the focus being on the polaroid sx-70; one of the greatest loves of my life is that camera. I asked it where it had been all my life, and it replied, "Waiting here for you to discover me." I guess in this life we come to things when we are ready for them. And that is when the magic happens.
Until next time...
When words take flight.
So does our imagination. By leaving for awhile, by getting lost in the poetry or prose in front of our eyes, we come home to ourselves in a deep and true way. We find ourselves in the writing of others. That may be one of the most lovely paradoxes of all.
Until next time. May you find yourself swept away by the flow of images and memories and sentiments, born on the tip of the pen as it scrawls across the sheet of paper.
We fall and yet we rise again.
Grief comes in like the tide, waves knocking us down, washing over us, sometimes drowning us with their intensity. We feel the pull of the undertow. We hold our breath with each bombardment and wait for the waters to rescind. Once they have gone, we lay spread out on the sand, drenched, salt water mingled with tears.
We begin again to feel the breath in our lungs. We wiggle our toes and fingers, joyous at discovering that we still have the capacity to move them. The sun appears through parted clouds and warms our weary bodies. Each breath in helps us recover the connection to ourselves. Slowly, our strength returns. Our confidence returns, and with it, our desire to begin anew.
Until next time...
I am very honored to be among the twelve talented women participating in this year's 12.12 Project (http://www.the1212project.com/), a collective of women's instant photography. The project was started by photographer Penny Felts three years ago as a way to creatively challenge herself, to motivate and inspire both herself and other photographers.
The concept is simple: There are twelve photographers, who propose twelve themes, for the twelve months of the year. At the end of the month, we share our creations for that month and that particular theme. There is also a men's project that follows the same premise.
The first month's theme is an introduction with a self-portrait.
And so this is my profile photo. It was made with a Polaroid sx-70 sonar camera. This is an excellent SLR camera with which I fell instantly in love. It is now difficult for me to bring out any other camera when I am shooting! The dream-like quality of the images and the imprecise focus takes me out of the hard edges of everyday life into a place where all is soft, fluid, supple. The dried hydrangea blooms were added to the exterior of the photo to reinforce the romantic quality, to add depth, and to speak of the passage of time.
I invite you to follow along on facebook : https://www.facebook.com/The1212Project/ or Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/the12.12project/.
There is so much talent among these woman, I cannot overstate how thrilled I am to be among them. These are the very photographers who inspired me to get into instant photography in the first place! I feel like a little kid at the big kids' table, but I am holding my own.
Stay tuned for more instant photos and musings. Until next time...
The arc of the back of her neck, the little hollow just beneath the line of her jaw...
Her hair pulled loosely into a chignon, she leaned forward on the bed. I stood in the doorway behind her, watching the way the light fell on her shoulder, noticing how her velvet skin stood against the texture of the lace chemise she was wearing. Despite the mirror across from her, she did not yet know I was there, swimming in the depths of a reverie of her own. I tiptoed across the parquet and breathed into her ear, "I want to kiss you as softly as this light falling on your skin. May I?"
"You can try," she replied, "but I'm not confident you'll succeed. The late afternoon light is so faint, I can barely feel it."
I leaned in even closer, exhaling slowly as my lips approached her neck, she shivered. I lingered there, grazing her skin with my lips, losing myself in her scent and the heat that was radiating from her body. Not wanting to break the spell, neither of us spoke, neither of us moved....
Until next time...
It's been awhile since my last post, and for that I apologize. Thank you for your patience and your fidelity. I appreciate you, dear Reader. Communication requires a sender and a receiver. Thanks for being on the receiving end of my musings.
For my birthday this year, I received a polaroid spectra camera. Yes, a polaroid... from the 1980's. It has been refurbished, and happily, when polaroid stopped manufacturing film for its many cameras, other companies, such as the Impossible Project, stepped in to fill that void. I had done a lot of research on the different models of old polaroids that are available. They are like guitars in some ways; each individual camera is somewhat different. Despite basic similarities, there are subtle differences and nuances in the images they take. Mine seems to have a signature pale blurring of the sides of the photos and some great vignetting. And every pack of film produces different results too. When you begin to shoot with expired film, the effects can be extraordinary! I haven't yet tried expired film, but for polaroid shooters, it is the holy grail. Some day soon, I'll find some online and eagerly try it out.
All of this is to say that when shooting with a polaroid, as compared to a digital single lens reflex camera, the photographer has much less technical control, but the results straight out of the camera are much more artistic. One can not achieve the exact same effects with software or photo manipulation. It is just not possible. I love the vintage look, the colors, the ghosts of the past that seem to appear on the film. And I love that I can hold these photos in my hands. They seem more real somehow than images on a computer screen.
The colors are soft and dreamy. The focus is soft too, there are not a lot of details, but I love that effect.
The black and white photos have warm undertones. This film too, produces a general softness and vintage look that makes me swoon.
This has been a real learning experience for me. I have ruined many images in the past two months since shooting polaroids. There have been many failures as I learn the boundaries of my frame. For self-portraits, you have to know the limits of your field of view. It's easier when shooting someone or something else. I am also learning how to work with the 10 second timer (compared to a remote control I use for my digital camera which fixes the focus point very precisely). This is also not an easy thing to do, to set the timer, get into position, and assume a pose that is correct, all within 10 seconds. It's a sprint.
A fine example of a lack of understanding the boundaries of my frame is the photo above, a double exposure, where my hand is visible in the bottom leftIt was supposed to be outside of the frame. I love the effect of the double exposure, however. The softness is an invitation to reverie.
I have been experimenting a bit with double exposures, which is the reason why I selected this particular model in the first place. It easily makes double exposures, providing an infinite number of creative possibilities.
So, in my absence from posting here, I have been learning a new skill, flexing my photographic muscles. This new adventure in photography has been exhilarating.
I am so grateful for those who have contributed to the cause and bought film for me, like my mom and my sweetie, Santa Claus. On Instagram there is a hashtag, "staybrokeshootfilm," and that about sums up the life of an instant photographer.
Needless to say, I am already hooked and looking at other models of polaroids, looking at old film cameras that support a polaroid back, searching for expired packs of film... The possibilities are endless.
Stay tuned for more polaroid love in the coming weeks. Until next time...
We hold all the answers to the questions that keep us awake in the middle of the night. We know what we need to do:
We need to take ourselves by the hand, gently, reassuringly, and lead ourselves through the darkness,
down the heavily forested path,
past the green briars and the rambling roses,
past the ancient shagbark hickory that regularly sheds its skin,
past the carpet of moss, thick as a mattress warm and soft in the dappled sunlight....
to the clear waters of the creek.
Standing there.... as the shallow waters roll over and around us,
as they caress our tired, bare feet,
as the songs of the forest birds fill our ears...
there we can breathe again.
With every breath a wave of healing washes over us,
every exhale affirms what we need to know.
Trust yourself. In the quiet moments, your heart is open, waiting for you to dive in and recover the treasures hidden in the deep.
"“Your heart is the size of an ocean. Go find yourself in its hidden depths.”
― Jalaluddin Rumi
Until next time...
A photographic study of body language....
We have the ability to communicate so much, while saying so little.
I notice that I am typically drawn to the same themes again and again in my work. Perhaps you have noticed that too (I am sure you have, perceptive reader). Body language, particularly the way we speak with our legs fascinates me. Typically one thinks of legs in terms of the actions they perform, walking, running, climbing stairs, dancing, crossing and uncrossing as we sit, stretching out as we lie down. In each of these movements, in the way they are executed, in the deliberate movements and pauses, in the contracting of muscles, in the angles of the body, there is communication. Sometimes we express a need for movement, a need for space, a need to get something done. Other times, we express a need to be touched, a need for tenderness, a need for connection in the form of gentle invitation.
These photos also explore an innocent material, white cotton lace, and play up the sensuality of this timeless, ultimately feminine material against bare skin. And legs, with their long lines, their musculature, their graceful curves, are inherently sensual. Both sexes fall a pair of lovely legs. In these photos, deliberate use of light and shadow along with processing in black and white, heavily vignetted and contrasted, serve to reinforce the femininity and the sensuality of the poses, while adding a little dose of mystery.
Sometimes the most effective way to communicate is to simply say nothing at all.
Until next time...
Perhaps it is the time of the year. The grey skies, the rainy days, the leaves blowing across the landscape... Autumn always puts me into a reflective, introspective mood. October 31 is also the birthday of my son, who died eight years ago, and so inevitably this time of year, my thoughts turn a little more somber.
Last week I began creating a new series entitled, "When Angels Fall." I wanted to convey some emotions I have relating to life and death, change and rebirth, grief. There are, as always in my more intimate photos, bits of vulnerability and love thrown into the mix as well. There are things we hold onto, things we cling to desperately when change is forced upon us. We resist what is happening, for it is simply too much to bear. This resistance is natural for a time, and is what grief is really all about. In the process of grieving, we move through this resistance, and finally we come to acceptance. These photos provide tiny glimpses of that process.
Eight years later, many losses and changes later, I am still making sense of it all. I have come to accept what has happened and learned to live with them, incorporating them into my being, but I notice that the way I relate to these losses now is very different than it was in the beginning. We grieve at so many levels, and our relationship to grief over time. The things that were prominent or very important at the beginning become diminished later on, and new things come to the fore.
Fortunately I have photography to help me continue to make sense of my experiences.
Sam Beam, songwriter and frontman for the band Iron and Wine is someone whose writing I find to be gripping, compelling, profoundly moving. in his song "Over the Mountain." He writes, "Mother, remember when I breathed through your body..." Yes, I do remember.
As the series develops further, I will be sharing more of the photos here.
Until next time...
Sometimes I receive comments on the photos that I share on a social media photosharing website from well-intentioned, kind, concerned people who says things like, "You should smile more often in your photos." Or, "Why do you always look so sad?" Or even, "Are you okay? I am worried about your mental health." I have been asked to post photos in color so that the person would know that I was doing okay. The same people make similar comments about my "evident" sadness when I am the model for another photographer, my sweetie, when he is the creative director who asks me to strike a certain pose or have a certain expression in a photo.
And while I appreciate the concern from friends, I have to say that these comments bother me a bit too. My photos, while they represent a capacity I have to feel and express certain emotions, they are not a daily journal of my current emotional state. They are designed to evoke a mood or a memory, created to tell a story, to arouse emotion in the viewer. When done right, the photo can be haunting or piercing, questioning, or pensive. It can express longing, loneliness, grief, melancholy. Sometimes it just portrays a state of being deep in thought, of daydreaming. It also seems some people have a hard time detecting the subtle nuances in expressions captured in photos. They notice the lack of a smile but not the softness around the eyes or mouth. It is as if they lump portraits into two simplistic categories: happy and sad, missing all the variety of emotion in between. If a photo makes a person a bit uncomfortable, in my opinion, that's good! It means I have done my job as an artist, which is to give rise to an emotion. If a photo makes us feel something, then it is a piece of art. Art is supposed to make us feel.
I happen to be someone who is drawn to music that is achingly sad, soft, melodic. I adore Chopin as much as I adore Lisa Hannigan or Great Lake Swimmers. The photographic art that moves me is usually in black and white and very atmospheric, highly emotional. It's often filled with melancholy. I like books that explore love and loss. There is poetry and beauty in the shadows. We need them as much as we need the light.
When I create a photo, for the purpose of story-telling or giving a visual expression to an emotion, I am playing a role. I put on a costume, style my hair in a certain way, I pose a certain way, in order to bring a character, a story, to life. It's acting. Art is supposed to be dramatic! Most of the time I have an image in my head for the photo I want to make before I set up the scene or even step in front of the camera. These photos are planned and composed in my imagination ahead of time. They are researched and fine-tuned. They are not "selfies" which is another comment that annoys me, but that is a post for another time.
When a photographer makes self-portraits, viewers project many things onto the photographer/model, perhaps more so than in other art media. Other artists who make self-portraits have told me they experience the same genre of comments on their work. We make self-portraits for a variety of reasons. Often times it is simply because when we have time to shoot, we are always available, when another model is not. And so we put ourselves into the scene, we write ourselves into the story. Ansel Adams said that every photo is, in reality, a self-portrait. Something to think about.
As part of my growth process as an artist, I need to remind myself that their projections are theirs, and I do not have to let their discomfort make me uncomfortable. There are those who understand what I do, and they appreciate it. Those who don't get it, well, I need to allow them that and not allow it to bother me. All of this touches on the vulnerability and risk of judgment that comes from making art and putting it/yourself "out there." This journey is not for the faint of heart.
I would like the thank my friend, Chrystal, for suggesting that I write about this subject and for being a huge source of both support and inspiration. She is an exceptional photographer and a beautiful soul. Please do yourself a favor and check out her exceptionally evocative, work. Her plays with light and shadow, pose and texture are endlessly fascinating.
You can find some of Chrystal's work here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/cris717/with/29518870025/.
Thanks for reading. Until next time...
Lyrics by Agnes Obel
Down by the river by the boats
Where everybody goes to be alone
Where you won't see any rising sun
Down to the river we will run
When by the water we drink to the dregs
Look at the stones on the river bed
I can tell from your eyes
You've never been by the riverside
Down by the water the riverbed
Somebody calls you somebody says
Swim with the current and float away
Down by the river everyday
Oh my God I see how everything is torn in the river deep
And I don't know why I go the way
Down by the riverside
When that old river runs pass your eyes
To wash off the dirt on the riverside
Go to the water so very near
The river will be your eyes and ears
I walk to the borders on my own
To fall in the water just like a stone
Chilled to the marrow in them bones
Why do I go here all alone
Oh my God I see how everything is torn in the river deep
And I don't know why I go the way
Down by the riverside
Both photos were taken with a 50mm lens on the banks of the Seine near my home. They were not created with the song in mind, but the song fits the photos so well.
Photography and music go hand in hand. Agnes Obel, Riverside.
Until next time...
A lot has been written about vulnerability and the strength it requires to allow oneself to be open, exposed, vulnerable. Researcher Brené Brown has an excellent TED talk on the subject. The older I get, the more this resonates with me. When I was in my twenties, striking out as a young adult, a young wife, a mother of two, an undergraduate and then graduate student in social work, a volunteer for a women's crisis center.... all of those things seemed to me to require a certain stoic strength of me. It was hard to admit when the world was too much to bear, though there were definitely moments when those feelings arose. I never had a hard time allowing myself to cry, but I did so mostly when watching movies or listening to music that stirred my soul. I had hardened myself to a certain extent, as a form of self-protection. Early experiences had taught me that the world was not exactly a safe place, and so I was often guarded and unsure of others at first. It took me awhile to let others in.
Twenty years later, I have certainly learned a lot! I have known losses and loves, joys and sorrows, that cracked me wide open, shaking me to the core of my being. Sometimes in this life there are things that happen to us over which we have no control. Losing my son was one of those things. These losses make us vulnerable, and there is no escape from the intensity of feeling.
I now see that as a good thing. Rumi said, "The wound is the place where the light enters you." When I allowed myself to be vulnerable, I allowed that crack to burst wide open, and the light came flowing in, bringing with it a deeper capacity for love, love of self and love of others.
Perimenopause, a state which I now find myself to be in, brings a new and different level of vulnerability to the table. Waves of emotions can arise from nowhere and bowl us over. It also forces us to confront that we are growing older, to ponder questions about our femininity, our desirability. It is a time of dramatic change for a woman, one which leaves us exposed to the forces of nature. Irish singer-songwriter Damien Rice said, "Time is contagious; everybody's getting older." So true, Damien. Sometimes we are more aware of that fact than others.
Being an artist requires a certain level of vulnerability too. It requires of us to embrace the risks that people won't like what we do, that they won't understand what we do. We risk judgment, criticism, and in the worst cases, contempt.
Driven by the need to express emotions, dreams, impressions, bits of self, I continue to make art. And in doing so, I continue to embrace my vulnerability. It's not always comfortable, not is it always easy, but it is authentic and honest. To me, that is far more important. Making art helps me traverse these strange waters, it is my lifejacket when they seem to want to overtake me.
Thank you for being there to help me through this process. If you feel inclined, please drop me a note, letting me know how you navigate this territory. Together, we can help and perhaps inspire each other.
Until next time...
lightness of being a woman.
Taken with a 50mm lens, at f/1.8, the focus here is on the bouquet of dried roses, with the body of a woman in the blur. The image speaks of the process of aging, of staying vital and beautiful as the years mount. There is such pressure on women to look a certain way, to conform to a certain standard of beauty. And even though we age, the arbitrary standard never does. It is always young and firm, bouncy and round, supple and sinuous.
Unlike a good wine, with humans, aging is complicated. We continue to get better in certain ways, and yet we decline in others. There is a give and take that occurs. What we gain in wisdom, we lose in elasticity. I had a friend who was in her 90's and she said that when she randomly caught a glimpse of herself in the mirror, she wondered for a second who that old woman was, the one looking back at her. When asked how old she felt on the inside, she said, "I feel about 25, maybe 30." And then she smiled, and I could see her as the ten year old girl she had once been. Her eyes still had that twinkle, that spark, even though her face bore the marks of the passing of the years. There was a lightness in her spirit.
My friend was a lot like this bouquet of flowers. When I look at them, they are dried, wrinkled, crispy, and yet I see beauty there in the creases, evidence of having lived. I see perfection in their imperfections. I keep them around because of the memories associated with them. They remind me of one of the happiest occasions of my life. I see beyond the dessication.
There are other photos in this series, which I will be sharing and writing about soon. Please stay tuned for more.
Until next time...
Les souvenirs de ton toucher s'attardent toujours....
L'amour est comme ça. On se perd délicieusement dans les moments de la passion. Le temps disparaît, le monde extérieur se fane. Il n'y a que deux êtres seuls qui existent. Toi et moi. Et puis après, c'est là où on s'y retrouve dans nos pensées, dans nos rêveries, les souvenirs d'une nuit blanche, qu'on a passé embrouillé dans les draps blancs et nos bras et jambes, l'un et l'autre. Tes baisers restent sur mes lèvres, la chaleur de ta main sur mon ventre, la douceur de ton souffle dans mon oreille....
Memories of your touch linger still.
Love is like that. We lose ourselves deliciously in moments of passion. Time disappears, the outside world fades away. There are only two beings who exist.... you and me. And afterwards, it is there where we find ourselves there again in our thoughts, in our daydreams, memories of a white night spent in a tangle of limbs and white sheets. Your kisses remain on my lips, the heat of hand on my belly, the softness of your breath in my ear...
À la prochaine.... (Until next time...)